The Best of Our Knowledge
5:04 am
Mon April 7, 2008

The Best of Our Knowledge # 916

Albany, NY – REMEMBERING SIR ARTHUR C. CLARKE -

We begin today with a brief note about the very recent passing of visionary science fiction writer, Sir Arthur C. Clarke. Clarke was the author of 100
books and was an impassioned promoter of the idea that humanity's
destiny lay beyond the confines of earth.

It was his creation, with legendary film director Stanley Kubrick, which
gave us the classic 1968 science-fiction thriller, 2001: A Space Odyssey.
It brought Sir Arthur world-wide fame. Mr. Clarke's influence on public
attitudes toward space was acknowledged by astronauts..by scientists like astronomer Carl Sagan..and by movie and television producers. In fact,
Gene Roddenberry credited Clark's writings with giving him the courage
to pursue his Star Trek project.

One of Arthur Clarke's most memorable characters is probably the Hal
9000 Computer in his 2001: A Space Odyssey movie. Even though
that was 40-years ago..difficult to believe..you will hear both Hal and
Star Trek in our next story.

Dr. Karen Hitchcock reports. (1:10)

NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION SERIES
THE SOUNDS OF PROGRESS: THE CHANGING ROLE OF GIRLS AND WOMEN IN SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING

PROTOTYPES AS GATEKEEPERS: RESEARCHERS STUDY THE CONSEQUENCES FOR GENDER PARTICIPATION IN COMPUTER SCIENCES

History shows that women are less likely to seek careers in computer
science, engineering, or physics than almost any other scientific job.
Indeed, both the rise and fall of computer science enrollments have
been dramatic over the last ten years. National data shows that the
number of newly declared undergraduate majors at doctoral-granting
computer science departments is roughly half what it was in the year 2000.

Why are these women..many of whom have grown up with computers
in their homes, and had computer science and advanced math classes
in high school..not interested in pursuing and remaining in computer
science and engineering to the same extent as their male peers?

A team of researchers at Stanford University..led by Dr. Sapna Cheryan..
has focused on that very question for several years. They're learning
why it happens, and what schools can do to try and improve programs
to encourage more women to stay in computer sciences. Now, for the
first time, we have the results of that just completed long-term investigation
in audio form. The final written version of this study will be published in
the future in peer reviewed journals.

Reese Erlich reports from California. (13:49)

* The preceding material is supported by the National Science Foundation
under grant HRD 0631603. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or
recommendations expressed in this story, are those of the authors,
and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Science Foundation.

* Featured in the above story are:
Dr. Sapna Cheryan, Principal Investigator and Assistant Professor of
Psychology, University of Washington; Dr. Claude Steele, Professor of Psychology and Director, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California; Dr. Sheri Sheppard, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University; Stanford
Students - Maya Gendelman, Senior, Ben Fong, Junior, and Chris
Williams, Senior.

* Program Directors and Listeners please note. If you would like to
hear this story again, and other stories like it, visit our website at: www.womeninscienc.org. Then click on The Sounds of Progress
button. You'll see photos, and links to Dr. Cheryan like the following:

* For more details about Dr. Sapna Cheryan's research, listeners can link to
her faculty web page: http://faculty.washington.edu/scheryan/research.htm

* Dr. Cheryan also gave a recent presentation at Google on this
research, which Google posted on youtube at this following link:

QUESTIONS REMAIN ABOUT LAPTOP COMPUTERS IN SCHOOLS -

While we're talking about computers..laptops were often considered the future of public education around the turn of this century. Ironically, as
we heard earlier, that was just about the same time computer science enrollments were declining.

There have been many stories where entire school systems received
wireless laptops. One example..the state of Maine gave all its middle
schoolers laptops. And districts like Liverpool, New York (just outside
Syracuse) followed suit.

But then last year in New York, it looked like the laptop revolution might
be coming to an end. The Liverpool Central School District scaled back
its program. Assistant Superintendent, Maureen Patterson, told NPR at
the time that it just wasn't worth the expense. Patterson said they ...decided that we needed to ask if it's improving student achievement, if instruction
with technology was doing that, and student use of technology was
improving student achievement? Was it increasing our student graduation
rate? Was it decreasing our drop out rate? And the answers were no!
And Liverpool School Board President, Mark Lawson, added After
seven years, there was literally no evidence it had any impact on
student achievement...none.

However, proponents of so-called one-to-one laptop programs, where
each student gets a computer to take home..say it's premature to sound
the death knell. They say it's all about the execution.

Dan Bobkoff reports from Ohio. (3:11)